I live across the country with my boyfriend but visit Sacramento every few months to see my parents. Just before New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend and I had a fight over a past mistake I made that still affects our relationship. Afterward, I bought a one-way ticket to Sac. I told my boyfriend that I was hitting the reset button. He said he forgives me and wants to marry me. I am struggling with guilt, indecision and despair. I thought our relationship was making me feel bipolar. Now, I realize I might be bipolar. I am seeking counseling, but don’t know what to tell him since we are still technically living together. I feel like a roller coaster with no stops, and hiding out at my parent’s house is not helping. What should I do?
Make good on your promise to hit the reset button. Tell your boyfriend the truth: You are in process, and haven’t landed on an answer yet. Let him know that you’ll clue him in when you figure things out. In the meantime, give yourself a fresh start.
Let’s begin with those roller-coaster emotions. Have you seen your primary care doctor? Some health conditions launch hormones that cause emotions to ping all over the place. A thorough physical exam could yield valuable information. Also consider your comfort level with intimacy—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Although most people are taught that being close to another human being should be among our life’s goals, we’re not instructed how to do it, or what to do when it feels impossible. The reality is everyone struggles, in some way, with intimacy. Some people have no issue with sexual intimacy but freak out about opening up emotionally. Other people are fearful of sharing their thoughts, but love to be affectionate. What are your limits and expectations of intimacy? And, if you are someone who needs a lot of solitude, but isn’t getting enough, you might act out in extreme ways. Allowing yourself to regularly recharge at a monastery or yoga retreat can soften rough emotional edges.
Exploring your needs around intimacy will also reveal boundaries that inhibit your capacity to love or be loved. It can be scary to give ourselves completely to another person. If you are experiencing this fear, practice giving a little more, and receiving a little more, every day. It’s an exercise that could allow you to repair your relationship, and accept your boyfriend’s forgiveness. More importantly, it will inspire you to forgive yourself.
Yes, that means taking responsibility for the pain you caused through your past mistake, and making restitution. So, for example, if you cheated on your man and he wants to check your phone daily, say yes. But institute a timeline. Like this: “I understand my behavior has caused you to distrust me. I want to be trusted again. I will tell you the truth. Check my phone anytime you want for the next three months. By the end of 90 days, you will see I have changed because I’m committed to you. Does 90 days work for you?” Collaborate on a solution that benefits each of you, and the relationship.
One last thing, if you are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, please remember, the illness does not define you. You have a disorder that sometimes manifests, and it is one of the many human experiences you are having here on earth.